May 2, 2014

"NACDS helps to protect the value we currently deliver and sets the stage to provide an even higher level of care, all while sending a powerful message that chain pharmacies are doing far more than filling prescriptions and selling merchandise." That's the message incoming National Association of Chain Drug Stores John Standley had for NACDS Annual attendees. It's a critical juncture in the healthcare industry, he said, and everyone who participates in NACDS plays a substantial role.

NACDS is getting a seasoned performer at the helm. Standley has shown exemplary leadership and remarkable clarity of vision in leading the turnaround at Rite Aid — today the retail health care company is in the best shape it has been in financially in more than a decade, and introduced several very innovative new programs and initiatives from the wellness ambassadors to wellness+ to the Rite Aid Health Aliance, and most recently its acquisition of RediClinic.

April 25, 2014

CVS Caremark has long stressed its commitment to reinventing pharmacy, and news of a bill pay service for health insurance premiums is in line with that mission and is yet another first that the trailblazer can add to its ever-growing list.

As the article states, customers can now visit their local CVS/pharmacy to pay their health insurance premiums at no additional cost. CVS/pharmacy is the first national retail pharmacy to offer this service.

April 18, 2014

Good news for manufacturers and retailers: Millennials are, in fact, brand loyal. That’s according to a new survey of Millennial consumers from marketing data provider Adroit Digital, which found that 64% of Millennials are more brand-loyal or as brand-loyal as their parents, with 24% considering themselves to be more brand-loyal than their parents.

But there’s a catch.

April 11, 2014

Spring 2014 will be marked as a watershed moment for Rite Aid — it's the season Rite Aid officially transitioned from an operation on the turnaround to a renewed and recharged entity positioned for future growth.

"Fiscal 2014 was far more than just another great year for Rite Aid," John Standley, Rite Aid chairman and CEO, shared with analysts Thursday morning. "Because of our continued positive momentum, we are now in a position to evolve our strategy from one that focuses on turning our company around to one that emphasizes growth. Because of the rapid change taking place throughout the healthcare industry, we believe there is enormous opportunity to meet evolving marketplace needs, better serve our customers and demonstrate our value to the healthcare system. In many ways, we feel as though we're beginning a new chapter here at Rite Aid as we look to further expand our healthcare offerings and strengthen the many wellness offerings that have driven our recent success."

April 4, 2014

Walgreens helped create a new, larger worksite health organization when it sold a majority interest in Take Care Employer Solutions to strategic health investor Water Street Healthcare Partners. The new entity, which combines Take Care with CHS Health Services, will serve more than 200 leading corporations through nearly 500 worksite health-and-wellness centers across the country. Walgreens still maintains a significant stake in the company and will continue to manage their existing worksite clinics in collaboration with the new company.

The end result will be an opportunity to couple best practices into an entity with a greater economy of scale that's part of a business model with a lot of upside. The vast majority of large employers remain committed to providing benefits to active employees, according to a recent survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health — an association of large employers — released in March. Offering health insurance as an employee benefit is something the majority of small businesses think is very important, too, according to the 2014 Small Business Health Care Survey from the National Small Business Association — 91% of firms fielding between 20 and 50 employees and 94% of businesses with more than 50 employees believe health benefits are crucial to employee recruitment and retention.

March 28, 2014

DSN recently launched a new microsite, DrugStoreNews.com/Pain-Management, to bring attention to a tragic side of the prescription drug abuse story — one that's not often told. The millions of Americans who live in chronic pain who already find it difficult to access the medications they need may soon find it even more difficult — because proposed changes in regulatory policy are expected to place additional hurdles on their treatment pathway.

March 21, 2014

Good things happen in small boxes. That's what Walmart is counting on with the introduction of its latest store concept — Walmart To Go. First the supercenter, then Neighborhood Market, then WalmartExpress and now Walmart to Go. The boxes just keep getting smaller.

But what if Walmart is on to something? What if tomorrow's definition of convenience is ubiquity? Then it makes a lot of sense to start filling in the gaps between the supercenters with smaller formats.

March 14, 2014

Wellness empowerment. Even before Rite Aid’s big announcement last week, officially unveiling its newest program, the Rite Aid Health Alliance, those two words more or less reflected every major initiative happening at the company over the last few years: the Wellness stores; its Wellness+, Rite Aid’s health-based loyalty program; the Wellness Ambassadors in its stores… It’s always been about engaging patients in wellness, and empowering them to take steps to improve their health and well being. The Rite Aid Health Alliance takes that commitment down to the “atomic level of patient engagement,” Rite Aid chairman and CEO said last week, at a live event at one of its Buffalo stores.

Through the program, Rite Aid pharmacists together with a new patient care position in Rite Aid stores, the Care Coach, work directly with patients with chronic conditions and poly-chronic conditions to help them meet specific health improvement goals, as outlined by the patient’s physician. Care coaches, who are specially trained in behavior change to help patients address health issues related to lifestyle, work with patients to take their physicians’ recommendations and “break them down into sizeable, understandable milestones,” Jocelyn Konrad, VP healthcare initiatives for Rite Aid, told DSN. Rite Aid’s Health Alliance stores can “become an extension of the physician’s office,” she said. “It’s going to be a different experience for the patient. Whatever [they] need to understand and be motivated, we will work to provide it.”

March 7, 2014

It's finally happening. Pfizer has placed the ball at the line of scrimmage. And based on the X's and O's to come out of its Lipitor OTC actual-use study, Pfizer will be making its run with its eye on the ultimate prize — a successful Rx-to-OTC switch of a statin.

Only this time, the Food and Drug Administration may not be as quick to sack Pfizer's switch attempt. With the advances and pervasion of health technology in the self-care space by way of smartphones and tablets; with the evolution of the pharmacist as a healthcare professional able to practice at the top of their license; and with the adoption of diagnostic tests like a cholesterol panel that can be physically administered in the pharmacy, consumers may finally get it right when self-selecting a statin.

Because it's the consumer actual-use studies that have scuttled just about every statin switch attempt in the past. In the last switch of Mevacor, FDA advisory panelists determined the statin was safe enough for the self-care space. And it was effective. It's just that the consumers who would be right for an OTC statin didn't appropriately self-select. And if they can't appropriately self-select, what's the point, really?

February 28, 2014

Following speculation that Safeway may be considering "strategic alternatives," Safeway executives during their latest conference call confirmed just that — the supermarket retailer placed itself on the sales block. Before that conference call, analysts were already putting two and two together and coming up with two viable suitors for the Safeway footprint — private investment firm Cerberus, also known as New Albertsons, and supermarket giant Kroger, which has just closed on Harris Teeter for $2.5 billion.

Cerberus is said to be the lead bidder, but Kroger shouldn't be ruled out. But what would Cerberus or Kroger be getting if they purchased Safeway outright for almost $10 billion? In addition to 1,335 locations and a $2.7 billion book of prescription business, there would be some intangibles in the deal as well — namely Safeway's relatively advanced Just for U loyalty program and a yet-to-be launched health-and-wellness platform that's supposed to evolve Safeway over the next decade from being a food retailer into being a health solutions center.

February 21, 2014

CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic is testing telehealth at more than two-dozen sites in California and is looking to expand the pilot to a second state.

The pilot program not only further illustrates CVS Caremark’s goal of creating a national platform to support primary care but it also speaks to larger trend playing out within the country’s healthcare landscape — telehealth.

February 7, 2014

CVS Caremark made big news — BIG news — when it announced on Feb. 5 that it would pull tobacco products from all of its pharmacy locations.

This is an extremely important step for the company as it sends the strong message that it is truly dedicated to helping people on their path to better health. Stripping away the roughly $2 billion in revenues garnered from the tobacco shopper likely wasn’t an easy decision but it makes sense — a lot of sense — for CVS. It clearly demonstrates to its shoppers, health systems and PBM clients that it is placing patients’ health front and center.

January 31, 2014

If you don't succeed the first time, try, try again. That's exactly what McKesson did when it announced that it reached an agreement with Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH to acquire its entire holding of Celesio shares. And in a separate and subsequent agreement, McKesson also picked up the Celesio convertible bonds from Elliott.

Nothing good is ever easy. "While the path to securing this acquisition was certainly not what we had originally expected, it would seem that the interested parties to this transaction continued to see the compelling strategic benefit of McKesson and Celesio uniting to form a global leader in health care services," John Hammergren, McKesson chairman, CEO and president, said of the deal. "I never lost sight of the value this transaction will bring to our customers, our supply chain partners, the employees of both organizations and our shareholders."

January 24, 2014

Target is looking to open a new, smaller — much smaller — store in the base of an apartment building currently under construction near the University of Minnesota campus that will serve as a test for the new format dubbed TargetExpress, the New York Times has reported.

Clearly, the trend toward smaller continues. First it was Walmart Express and then CityTarget’s 80,000- to 125,000-sq.-ft. footprint, and now the even tinier TargetExpress. In fact, taking a look back at DSN’s “12 for 2012” story, which examined trends and issues impacting retail pharmacy in 2012, smaller formats were highlighted as one trend to watch. Obviously, it’s still one to watch.

January 17, 2014

The National Community Pharmacists Association shared a proof of concept study that affirmed the value retail pharmacy can deliver in saving healthcare dollars. Patients who opted-in to medication synchronization programs offered through their community pharmacy averaged more than 100 additional days on therapy per year and were 30% more likely to take their medication as prescribed.

At a time when health systems and payers are actively seeking sound strategies to keep their patients from being readmitted to a hospital, pharmacy could very well be their panacea. Sticking to a prescribed drug therapy script does just that — it helps prevent re-hospitalizations, which will be a key metric with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The community pharmacist also sees the patients more often than other healthcare practitioners and has as many opportunities to provide appropriate course correction, if necessary, around a particular medicinal regimen if it isn't working. And medication synchronization augments the pharmacists' ability to keep their patients on point.

January 10, 2014

With the launch of Family Vitamin Center, CVS/pharmacy created a new health hub on CVS.com to help educate customers on the vitamins and supplements that can support their personal health goals. The site is designed to declutter the dietary supplement aisle with features like an interactive questionnaire and guidance tools that provide personalized supplement recommendations. It also allows users to shop by goal, such as heart health or immune support, and get the latest health tips. And perhaps most important, there's an automatic replenishment program.

It's a smart play. Those who supplement regularly fall into one of two categories — they're supplementing as part of a major lifestyle improvement change, or they're supplementing because they're already living that healthier lifestyle. In either case, you've got a consumer looking for — and willing to pay for — healthier solutions. CVS/pharmacy is positioning itself to be that solution.

January 3, 2014

According to reports, as many as 2.1 million Americans signed up for new insurance coverage that went into effect Jan. 1. However, even though these newly insured people had coverage, what they perhaps didn't have was the identification card to process claims, such as prescriptions, for example. But don't worry, retail pharmacy was fast to the rescue, offering those 2.1 million patients who had obtained insurance through a health exchange the benefit of the doubt and a 30-day supply of their prescriptions at no upfront cost once their coverage was verified.

December 20, 2013

Walgreens posted a first-quarter sales increase of 5.9% to a record $18.3 billion. Front-end comparable store sales for the quarter increased 2.4% in the first quarter, customer traffic in comparable stores increased 0.2% and basket size increased 2.2%, while total sales in comparable stores increased 5.4%. Prescription sales, which accounted for 64.7% of sales in the quarter ended Nov. 30, increased 7.3%, while prescription sales in comparable stores increased 7.2%.

Front-end comps are up. Prescription comps are up. Business is good. And that's not the story. Rather, that's the kind of results you can expect from the story. The story is Walgreens is priming a three-pistoned growth engine that will quite likely drive what pharmacy will look like in the future — an efficient global supply chain beast that feeds a front-end that commands traffic in its own right, and a back-end that demands healthcare payers pay attention to how Walgreens can help improve adherence and patient-care metrics. So, how can suppliers better align with Walgreens?

December 20, 2013

Top CVS Caremark executives gathered in New York City on Wednesday for its 2013 Analyst Day to outline the company’s strategies to drive long-term enterprise growth through its vast pool of assets and its nimbleness in responding to the evolving healthcare landscape.

It marked the third year that the Woonsocket, R.I.-based company has hosted its Analyst Day meeting in Decembe, but this year’s event no doubt proved especially timely since we’re just days away from the start of the New Year when health reform will begin to significantly alter U.S. health care.

December 19, 2013

Rite Aid announced its third-quarter 2014 sales Thursday, showing higher total and same-store sales and profits than third quarter 2013, as well as continued growth in programs like the Wellness store format, Wellness65+ and others.

The main story surrounding Rite Aid over the past couple of years has been its efforts to engineer a turnaround, but the message from Thursday was, "Rite Aid more or less has turned around, so what's next?"

December 13, 2013

According to published reports, Express Scripts may be looking to start a "price war" among the makers of the latest generation of drugs for hepatitis C — which promise much shorter treatment times than standard therapies, but also cost significantly more — in an effort to bring down prices.

The stakes are certainly high. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 3.2 million people in the United States chronically infected with hepatitis C and hence at risk for liver cancer, and the CDC recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for the virus.

December 13, 2013

Getting the flu shot prevented a flu-like illness for 6.6 million people last season, according to the CDC. In addition, it prevented 3.2 million medically attended illnesses and 79,000 hospitalizations. Not getting the flu shot can have adverse consequences, such as not going on that long-awaited vacation. According to a Walgreens survey, more than 11 million Americans had to change their vacation plans on account of the flu last year, most likely among families that didn't get their flu shots across the board.

Getting the flu shot works. But how much has being able to get that flu shot at the local retail pharmacy influenced the number of people getting a flu shot? More people are certainly taking advantage of the service. Walgreens recently reported that shots administered at pharmacies and clinics through November were more than 6.1 million versus nearly 4.6 million last year.

December 13, 2013

A recent study commissioned by Intel revealed that patients are ready to embrace personalized care, all the way down to medications for their specific genetic makeup, and they want the freedom to get health care wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.

Why is this important? Personalization — whether it is customized coupons and marketing or prescription medications — is here and will be critical in 2014. Consumers want more, and in the face of rising healthcare costs and a strained health care system, their healthcare is no exception.

December 6, 2013

McKesson's Health Mart pharmacy franchisees recently gained access to a tool that has the potential of giving community pharmacy a leg up on the competition in the coming years. EQuIPP, from Pharmacy Quality Solutions, does just that — equips independents with individual store data that marks the performance of their pharmacy vs. a national benchmark.

It's putting the pestle where the mortar is — retail pharmacy has the patient touchpoints and data-tracking wherewithal to make a material impact on patient outcomes. Important, because that's what the new year will bring — more and more healthcare payers looking to improve their own patient outcomes. And what better way to do it than to partner with outperforming pharmacies?